On December 18, we eat sausage and rice casserole. David’s birthday request is a standard meal from childhood. A dish full of family folklore and a recurring request across all birthdays on David’s side. It is a simple and direct meal with few ingredients and even less prep. It is delicious and not a grain of rice is left after mealtime. Clearly, it is a birthday request meal I can easily stand behind. Then David said, “I think this might be my new favorite meal for my birthday!” What could this meal be? What dish could possibly unseat the casserole that has stolen hearts and minds for the past 36 years? Hold your breath…..it’s shepard’s pie!
I know what you are thinking: Really? Yes, really!
- 2 lb ground beef or lamb
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 8 Tbs unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/3 cups beef broth
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp rosemary
- 3 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup frozen peas
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Browned the beed. Transfer to a plate.
In the same pot over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs of the butter. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, cover and cook, stirring, until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Stir in the broth and wine. Add the rosemary. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pot bottom. Return the beef to the pot, cover, place in the oven and cook until about 1 1/2 hours. About 30 minutes before the dish is ready, oil a baking dish. In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well. Cut 3 Tbs. of the butter into pieces and add to the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes while adding enough cream to create a smooth texture. Season the meat mixture with salt and pepper, stir in the peas and pour into the prepared baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into bits and use to dot the top. Bake until the top is lightly tinged with brown, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
When we went to Sur La Table, we were surprised by how enjoyable it was to do a cooking class. The chef was fun and funny and made the meal prep easy and non-intimidating. He definitely saw potential in David though and gave him all the “hard” prep tasks and my more hesitant self was perfect for peeling the ginger with a spoon. When we are among friends and strangers in social settings, I am for sure the extrovert while David takes a bit longer to warm up to the crowd. However in task-oriented or performance-based activities, David readily let’s down his hair, dons his apron and digs in, while I question everything about myself and am paralyzed by my crushing imposter syndrome! By the end of class though, I eased up on myself and enjoyed every bite of the meal we cooked alongside Chef Roy. The food was so delicious that we decided to make a new New Year’s Day tradition of cooking Chinese food at home. So we invited my parents over and served up some Chinese barbecue pork and it tasted like perfection!
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey
1lb pork tenderloin
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over pork. I placed the pork is a casserole dish covered in the marinade and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours. Take out of the frig thirty minutes before cooking to get it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking dish in foil and place a wire rack on top. In a non stick skillet add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium. Add the pork to the skillet and brown on all sides about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs transfer to wire rack and roast in the oven about 15 minutes or until internal temperature registers 145. Transfer pork to cutting board with a well and tent with foil to let rest for ten minutes. Then slice and enjoy.
Mrs. Constantine asked Henry at preschool: What is your favorite food? Henry earnestly responded as though there could be only one right answer for him and everyone else: BROCCOLI. At pick up, Mrs. C had to verify the validity of that three year old’s statement to which my mother, who gets Henry from school, confirmed swiftly. He has said that green vegetable is his all time food choice for almost a year now, so yes, we eat a ton of it! I once heard a TV doctor say that broccoli is better for you than an apple so we are going with that. Broccoli is part of at least three-four meals at our house since it is green, easy, and both boys don’t protest it. From time to time, I try to do more with those flowery stalks than a mere steam or sheet pan roast. Two days ago we turned some broccoli and cauliflower into fritters and we won’t be turning back!
They may not look like the most tantalizing dish you have ever laid your eyes on but I promise that once this plate went down we left no fritter behind!
1 head of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dices garlic
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup flour (or you can do all panko or gf panko)
Steam the veggies together on the stovetop for about five minutes. Remove and place into a large mixing bowl with all the other ingredients. Mash together with a potato masher. In a frying pan, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil, with that tablespoon grab a heaping scoop of the broccoli mixture and plop into the pan. Using the back of the spoon give your heap a little press to flatten a bit. Repeat until you have about four patties in the pan. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until fritter is golden then flip and repeat.
I have gotten into a groove. It is a weird pattern though but it seems to work for us right now. Henry likes to eat dinner around 5/5:20PM. An early bird to the dinner table causing the rest of us to join the little man earlier than we might like for our family dinner. The turn around time then from when I get home from work and when Henry wants to eat dinner is too narrow for me to cook a hot meal. So how do I solve this problem? I cook dinner the night before! Yup, so on Sunday night at 6:30PM, I cook dinner for Monday night. Then on Monday when we get home, we just warm it up and enjoy a family dinner. This helps me from buying take-out and eating junky foods, and lets us all get in a nutritious meal in our narrow window. Then Henry goes to sleep and I can take my time cooking dinner for Tuesday, etc. etc. And of course snack on it to make sure it is good.
What have we been noshing on? Some super simple and delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash.
2 acorn squashes (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved and seeded
1/2 cup bulgur
4 ounces manchego or Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
3 ounces cured chorizo, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 450. Place the squash halves cut-side down in a baking dish, add ¼ inch water, and bake until tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Prepare the bulgur as instructions. In a medium bowl, combine the bulgur, manchego, chorizo, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. When the squash is done stuff with the bowl mixture. Place back in the over for 5-8 minutes to melt cheese and warm it all up. ENJOY!